Diary of a Highland Lady - April/May 2005
Winter is over and signs of Spring are everywhere. Some are what you would expect anywhere - flowers, birdsong etc. Others are more peculiar to our household.
Take 'snoodling' for example. Tennyson the turkey is obviously feeling the stirrings of Spring as he has taken to practising 'snoodling' at every opportunity. For those not acquainted with turkeys, I should explain that the funny floppy bit that hangs off a male turkey's beak is called a snood and that Spring fever tends to make male turkeys want to wave it about a bit. This is usually accompanied by their face turning purple, lots of gutteral gobbling and tail-fanning. At the height of the performance the snood ceases to be funny floppy appendage and rigidly points skywards at which point female turkeys presumably swoon in admiration. Maybe if we had a female turkey she would do so. Sadly (for Tennyson) it just gives the chickens a giggle and is probably deeply offensive to ladies of a particularly sensitive nature.
Another sign of Spring is the change in Dr June's cooking as we come to the end of the game season. Don't get me wrong, venison and pheasant are lovely but they tend to get a bit 'samey' (not to mention 'gamey') after a few months. The poor old bat does try to ring the changes a little. Last week we had a dish of local 'Peasant and Fartridge' which we all hope and pray was a slip of the tongue but no one as yet has dared ask.
Of course Spring eventually means lambs. Dolcie (formerly the Lamb from Hell) is almost ready to produce her own lamb. And didn't I warn everyone there'd be trouble? She's already demanding a private health care, gas and air and an epidural for the actual birth, and threatening to seek lamb-support from Sherman the ram. We are all wondering what we are in for. Mind you (and I never thought I'd ever say this) I no longer dread whatever Dolcie bring forth. Why? Quite simply because I am now (very painfully) aware that lambs are not my worst nightmare - thanks to the arrival of Alfred the goat.
In some areas of the Highlands there are groups of wild goats, supposedly originating from escapees during Viking times. They are large, dark, shaggy beasts with huge horns. A lot of people say they look like something out of a devil-worship movie. Anyway, little Alfred was found as a tiny abandoned kid and so, like most waifs and strays, he was brought to us. He was so cold and frail that first he spent most of his time in or beside the Rayburn or on the hearth right next to the grate - hence his name 'Alfred the Grate'.
He was OK while he just toasted himself but then he began to find his feet. Boy, can he move! He jumps, chases, butts (with horns, already!) and, given half a chance, he uses me as a football and the dog as a springboard to leap on and off furniture. He's obsessed with climbing things. Dr Jeff says life's turned into a list of song titles from The Sound of Music - 'Climb Every Mountain', 'High on a Hill a Lonely Goatherd' etc, and as the little monster isn't house trained: 'How do you Solve a Problem like Urea?' (NB - All complaints about puns should be directed Dr Jeff, not me).
The bad news is that he will have to live indoors for several weeks (the goat, not Dr Jeff, that is). The even worse news is that he will probably stay with us forever. It seems that you can't just turn a billy goat out on to the hills again if he has become very used to people. He would be apt to give walkers and climbers rather a rough time, so I guess he'll be off to the vets and then learn to live like an honorary sheep on one of our new pieces of land where there is a mixture of hillside and woodland. I'm beginning to think I'd prefer a llama after all.
I suppose I must give a mention to the Royal Scots Raccoon Guards. They have totally woken from their winter sleepiness and are now bursting with mischievous energy. Currently they are working on ways to send poor Dr June really dotty. Raccoons are supposed to be scavengers and eat almost anything, so naturally our lot decide to be faddy feeders. One day they go mad for red peppers, bean sprouts and chicken so we go off on mammoth shopping trip to stock up for them. Once it's all bought in they decide they don't like it any more and want fresh fruit and beef sandwiches. Then they practice looking thin, pathetic and deprived to make her feel as if she isn't caring for them. They top off this performance with a special: 'I haven't had a square meal in a month' act when visitors arrive and eat anything and everything ravenously with pathetic gratitude. The fact that they are fat, glossy and obviously well fed hasn't deterred them one bit. Sadly, it seems to fool visitors - so far, any way.
One visitor likened the grey and black mottled coats of the raccoons to the colour of Alfred. That gave me an idea. If Dr June made one of the raccoons into a Davy Crocket creation she could have a matching hat and goat!